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Buff Coat

1640-1650 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
The buff coat was a feature of military dress during the 17th century, usually worn under a breastplate. Originally these garments were made of European buffalo (or wild ox) hide, which is where the term 'buff' comes from. By the mid-17th century, they were most frequently made of oil-tanned cow leather. The thick leather made the coat good protection, not only against musket balls and sword cuts, but also from the friction of the armoured plate worn over it.

Materials & Making
The thickest parts of the hide (over six millimeters) are at the bottom of the coat, to protect the legs while riding. Special sewing techniques join the thick, tough leather; the holes through which the thread passed were first punched with an awl. The absence of a waist seam means that four hides were used to make this coat, adding to its expense.

Ownership & Use
Portraits illustrate that buff coats were frequently adorned with lace cuffs and collars and wide, brightly coloured silk sashes. The style of this buff coat with an inner sleeve of soft doeskin and the extensive embellishment with two types of silver-gilt braid indicates that it probably belonged to a high-ranking officer.

Cost
Buff coats were expensive items, as contemporary letters and diaries reveal. Writing to his father-in-law in 1640, John Tubervill observed: 'For your buff-coat I have looked after, and the price they are exceedingly dear, not a good one to be gotten under œ10, a very poor one for five or six pounds.'


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Leather, silk, baleen, silver gold; hand-sewn
Brief Description
Man's buff coat, 1640-50, English; cow-hide leather, silver-gilt woven lace
Physical Description
Man’s buff coat of cow-hide leather, lined above the waist with ivory silk taffeta. It has a 2-inch (5 cm) standing collar and hanging sleeves, the sleeves of chamois leather. The coat fits the torso tightly with wide skirts below the waist. The collar is reinforced with linen and baleen. The hanging sleeves are applied with parallel vertical rows of ⅞-inch (2.2 cm) wide woven lace of silver-gilt filé and strip. The sleeves have 5 parallel horizontal rows of ⅜-inch (4 mm) braided silver-gilt filé. There are 24 holes on each side of centre front, each side threaded with ½-inch (1.3 cm) wide braided silver-gilt filé. Originally there were 5 button loops of braided silver filé; none remain. These fastened to buttons with a wooden core covered with silver-gilt filé thread; only 1 remains. The coat fastens with metal hooks and eyes; 7 hooks remain and 4 eyes. At the bottom edge of the silk lining there are 10 metal eyes.
Dimensions
  • Overall length: 103cm (approx)
  • Weight: 10kg
  • Chest under armholes circumference: 96.0cm (approx)
45 cm at shoulders; 61 cm elbow to elbow Dimensions checked: Measured; 31/05/2000 by NH Skirt footprint is not even, please see rough sketch in file
Gallery Label
British Galleries: Buff (leather) coats were made of thick cow hide and were commonly worn during the Civil War and Commonwealth period. They were originally hard-wearing military dress, but became a fashionable feature of men's portraits. Metal braid frequently embellished the more expensive versions.(27/03/2003)
Object history
Made in England
Summary
Object Type
The buff coat was a feature of military dress during the 17th century, usually worn under a breastplate. Originally these garments were made of European buffalo (or wild ox) hide, which is where the term 'buff' comes from. By the mid-17th century, they were most frequently made of oil-tanned cow leather. The thick leather made the coat good protection, not only against musket balls and sword cuts, but also from the friction of the armoured plate worn over it.

Materials & Making
The thickest parts of the hide (over six millimeters) are at the bottom of the coat, to protect the legs while riding. Special sewing techniques join the thick, tough leather; the holes through which the thread passed were first punched with an awl. The absence of a waist seam means that four hides were used to make this coat, adding to its expense.

Ownership & Use
Portraits illustrate that buff coats were frequently adorned with lace cuffs and collars and wide, brightly coloured silk sashes. The style of this buff coat with an inner sleeve of soft doeskin and the extensive embellishment with two types of silver-gilt braid indicates that it probably belonged to a high-ranking officer.

Cost
Buff coats were expensive items, as contemporary letters and diaries reveal. Writing to his father-in-law in 1640, John Tubervill observed: 'For your buff-coat I have looked after, and the price they are exceedingly dear, not a good one to be gotten under œ10, a very poor one for five or six pounds.'
Collection
Accession Number
T.34-1948

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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